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Prosecutor provides timeline for Mazi Smith's felony gun charge; 'wholly unremarkable'

The long delay is pressing a felony concealed weapon charge against star Michigan football player Mazi Smith was "wholly unremarkable," Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit told the Free Press.

The delay centered on Smith not being arrested at the scene when a gun was discovered during a traffic stop on Oct. 7. If Ann Arbor police had immediately arrested Smith, prosecutors would have had to make a decision on charges within 48 hours, Savit said. State law requires an arraignment with 48 hours of an arrest.

Instead, prosecutors received the police department's report on the incident one week later, on Oct. 14. A month later, on Nov. 17, charges were approved and a warrant was "sworn out" in front of a magistrate judge this week, Savit said.

One felony charge of having a concealed weapon was entered in Ann Arbor 15th District Court on Wednesday. Washtenaw County magistrate Elisha Fink arraigned Smith on Thursday afternoon on the charge. She granted him a personal recognizance bond and allowed him to travel out-of-state with U-M’s football team, which clears him for Big Ten championship and the possible College Football Playoff.

Smith’s attorney, John Shea, told the court Smith was in the process of getting a concealed carry permit when he was pulled over and has since received the permit.

Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith talks to reporters during the Big Ten media days on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith talks to reporters during the Big Ten media days on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Indianapolis.

The charge carries a possibility of up to five years in prison or a fine up to $2,500.

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Shea has not returned requests for comment.

Savit, who earlier this month authorized charges against several Michigan State players for the physical altercations in the Michigan Stadium tunnel following the rivalry football game, has taken criticism since the Free Press first reported the Smith story for the delay in charges.

He said the delay was not unusual.

"This is an unremarkable timeline for cases that are submitted to us when a defendant is not in custody," he said. "If a defendant is in custody, we need to process cases faster — within 48 hours — and we have a separate queue set up to review in-custody cases. But when a defendant is not in custody, authorization of charges generally moves slower. It was a wholly unremarkable timeline when a suspect isn't in custody."

That's also the difference in the time line when Eastern Michigan basketball star Emoni Bates was pulled over by Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 18 and arrested on two gun charges. Bates was arraigned the next day. Charges were dropped against Bates in October.

U-M issued a statement following the Free Press' report, saying Smith would continue to play games, just as he has since the incident.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit

"Mazi was honest, forthcoming and cooperative from the very beginning and is a tremendous young man," U-M athletic director Warde Manual said. "He is not and never has been considered a threat to the University or community.

"Based on the information communicated to us, we will continue to allow the judicial process to play out."

Manuel then said that Smith, a senior co-captain, "will continue to participate as a member of the team."

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said in the statement that he has "respect for our judicial process and with that respect brings confidence that a fair and just resolution is forthcoming."

The coach also said that Smith's "character and the trust that he has earned over the past four years will continue to be considered throughout the process."

One day after the incident, Smith had five tackles in the 31-10 win at Indiana. He has played in all 12 games this season. Michigan will play Purdue in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or djesse@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Prosecutor: Timing on Mazi Smith charges was 'wholly unremarkable'